Cindy Cone was added when she became U.S. Soccer Vice President, which means seven of the 10 members are U.S. Soccer officials, U.S. Soccer board members, or both.
Long before Cone was added last February, we were assured that the Task Force would be adding "working groups." They would add diversity and assuage those who pointed out that the Task Force charged with transforming soccer in America was comprised of mainstream insiders who already held power. Pete Zopfi, U.S. Youth Soccer chair and U.S. Soccer board member, told Soccer America's Beau Dure:
"My intent is from our side to make sure we populate those work groups with a diverse group of people. If we don’t get that diversity, we’re not representing youth soccer as it exists today, which is extremely diverse in all areas of the country."
Nearly one year later, we learn that the Task Force setup has grown to nearly 60 people: the 10 members, plus the 48 assigned to six working groups including eight staff support, and U.S. Soccer’s Chief Stakeholders Officer Brian Remedi.
Besides Cordeiro, not one Latino -- no man of Latin American origin or descent -- is among these 59 people.
The absurdity of a national organization in the USA, especially one that governs soccer, not giving representation to the Latino community in 2019 should not need explaining. But let's do remind ourselves that the USA's population is about 18% Latino. Since we're dealing with youth sports, it must be pointed that, under the age of 18, about 25% of the USA’s population is Latino.
Because of the composition of this Task Force, I guess it is necessary to explain that soccer's popularity is significantly higher within the Latino community than the overall population. And that there has been a long history of excluding the Latino community from mainstream soccer. The latter, it seemed, was an issue in which we did see progress.
This year, the boys youth national teams, from U-14 through U-20s, were up to about 40 percent Latino. Yet not a single Latino was deemed worthy of being on the Youth Task Force’s eight-person Working Group for “Coaching,” which does get input from five members who hail originally from Britain and one who was born in Spain raised in Belgium. And that group is staff-supported by Belgian Barry Pauwels.
The “Diversity & Inclusion” Working Group is chaired by Craig Scriven, who launched his coaching career in England and is the president of the USSSA Soccer, which represents fewer soccer players than play in unaffiliated Latin leagues in California. The Staff Support is Tonya Wallach, U.S. Soccer’s Chief Talent and Inclusion Officer. The group’s members are: Yvonne Lara (a Latina who started her career in soccer two years ago when she became Director of Marketing and Communications at AYSO), Indiana-based Ryan Sparks, Osuman Issaka of Nebraska, Eddie Henderson (ISC Gunners/Washington State Technical Director), Jene' Baclawski (South Texas ODP Technical Director) and former U.S. women's national team player Lindsay Tarpley.
One of the six groups covers refereeing, and it seems to be making a positive impact. I base that on the recent launch of the new Referee Pathway, which addresses one of the biggest problems I saw in the previous approach by making the entry level qualifications more accessible by adding the online component. But considering the large Latino contingent of referees in the USA, it too should have a connection to the Latino community. With the constant struggle to fill the reffing ranks, wouldn't outreach to those reffing in unaffiliated Latin leagues be one of the solutions to pursue?
And what would be a more obvious tactic toward expanding membership than courting unaffiliated Latin leagues? That was a mission of U.S. Soccer when Alan Rothenberg, Bob Contiguglia and Sunil Gulati served as president. Under Rothenberg's reign, U.S. Soccer hired Carlos Juarez to be a liaison to the Latino community, work that included bringing Latino coaches into the U.S. Soccer's coaching schools. It continued with U.S. Soccer hiring guys like Rene Miramontes, Carlos Menijvar, Juan Carlos Michia and Roberto Lopez. They enabled U.S. Soccer to certify thousands of Latino coaches.
Indeed, there has been incredible progress since the days when Latino players were rare in the youth national team program and on elite youth club teams. But during Gulati's tenure five youth national teams had Hispanic coaches. Today? It's only Tab Ramos, U-20 head coach. He's also been Youth Technical Director during the U.S. men's youth national team program's unprecedented success, based both on results and players moving up. But it's obvious that Ramos has been marginalized since the U.S. Soccer regime change of 2018.
The guys U.S. Soccer hired years ago to connect with the Latino community are still heavily involved in youth soccer. I spoke with Miramontes, Juarez and Lopez. They never got a call from anyone involved with U.S. Soccer's Task Force asking who they'd recommend as valuable additions from the Latino community. There are so many other obvious, easy-to-reach American soccer people whom the Task Force could have contacted to help identify extremely qualified Latinos for the Task Force's work.
How does one not draw the conclusion that U.S. Soccer doesn't appreciate or respect Latinos who are part of its membership? How does one not conclude that U.S. Soccer doesn't care about the vast Latino soccer community that isn't yet part of its membership?